In Salt Lake City, a city striving to be more "green," the hybrid Camry has been great for the police chief, who drives "calmly from stoplight to stoplight" in downtown traffic, said detective Jay Rhodes, the fleet coordinator.
The car averaged 40.36 miles to the gallon for the first six months, Rhodes said.
On patrol, however, Salt Lake City's Camrys have had problems.
The suspension is not as good as traditional police cars, Rhodes said.
And, he said, officers have trouble getting suspects in the back seats because of limited foot space because of an ill-fitting police cage, Rhodes said.
The suspension issue became clear when one of the Camrys and some Impalas tore through a field on a call of shots fired.
The bottom of the Camry scraped the ground as it bounded over the undeveloped plot of land, causing nearly $3,000 worth of damage, Rhodes said. < How much fuel is that worth ? >
The Impalas, on the other hand, drove away without any damage, as the "nice, tight" suspension held up, Rhodes said.
The back-seat trouble with the cage - the partition that secures the suspect in the back, keeping the officer safe in the front - stems from the fact that no company manufactures a cage specifically to fit the Camry. So Salt Lake City police had one that was originally designed for an Impala cut down.
It left just a couple of inches on the floor for suspects to try and maneuver their feet.
"They're already not happy with you, and now you're explaining, `Sir, you need to put your foot this way,'" Rhodes said.
Also, the gas savings on patrol have been small for Salt Lake City.
A young officer who has one of the marked-up patrol units and pounds on the accelerator as he dashes from call to call is getting about 20 miles per gallon, versus about 17 in the Impalas,
In El Dorado, the Union County city in south Arkansas, at least one detective is unhappy with his new hybrid Chevrolet Malibu, which is billed as the "most affordable midsized hybrid in America." "It's too small," said Sgt. Jamie Morrow, a stocky, 5-foot-10-inch man who prefers his old V8 Crown Victoria.
"It's a good-looking car, but it's just a little small for police usage." There are no plans to introduce hybrids to the fleets at the state's largest police agencies.
The Arkansas State Police, for instance, looked at buying a hybrid truck for an investigator in a rural part of the state. But the agency opted for a traditional Chevrolet Silverado at nearly an $18,000 savings, spokesman Bill Sadler said.
There has been no discussion of putting hybrids on patrol, he said.
Despite several hybrids in use by the city of Little Rock in various departments, police won't be getting any anytime soon, said Brock Vest, the city's fleet manager.
"The hybrids that are available are not pursuit-rated," he said. "Our entire patrol fleet is pursuit-rated. It would require us to change how we do patrols." He said the lack of a pursuit rating doesn't mean the hybrid can't go fast or isn't safe at high speeds.
"But it would not have the same handling characteristics as a vehicle that is rated to be a high-speed pursuit vehicle," Vest said.
Toyota says the Camry does zero to 60 in 8.9 seconds and has a top speed of 115. That's compared with top speeds of 119 or 129 for the Crown Victoria, depending on specifications.
In Salt Lake City, the Camry has not been put to the test in a pursuit. Rhodes, the detective who manages the fleet, said his agency's policy restricts pursuits to very few situations, so they are rare.
In Arkadelphia, Harris echoed that sentiment. Still, he said he is in talks with driving instructors at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in Camden about sending a couple of the Camrys down to test, since there are no hybrids in the training fleet.
"I'm glad I'm close to retirement if this thing goes south," he said.